Looking about for something to say to mark 300 days since last orders, that doesn’t involve referencing a certain film…

So I was turning over the maths of it and there it is: 60 sets of five-bar gates tallied on the wall, next to J4M and various pithy obscenities concerning the current state of politics in the UK. ‘Looks like I picked the wrong year to quit drinking!’ Brief pause, eyebrow movement.

repeat

The implication of viewing it in these terms is, though – as I noted fairly early on when I started writing about this in February 2019 – that something is being denied. That there is some sort of sentence being served, time done for crime done.

I don’t find those a useful way of thinking.

The difficulty of not-drinking-alcohol in the society I’m in (the UK) is how the pervasive normality of it makes it near impossible to explain in positive terms. Still can’t think of a way to phrase it without sounding evangelical. ‘I’m spending a year sober’ sounds relentlessly po-faced, enthusiastically well-scrubbed and twitchy of eye, with an added hint of being perched on a particularly lofty horse.

I’ve become comfortable talking about a dry life just as something I haven’t done before. People seem to accept the challenge aspect of it quite readily, if slightly uncomprehendingly. Someone I was in conversation with recently said that they did a booze fast twice a year, for a couple of months at a time, though admitted they usually stopped because they got bored with it. I quite like ‘booze fast’, even if it carries the connotation of breakfast (of champions).

It feels good, though! I don’t feel anywhere near the levels of dreads about mundane matters like, say, getting up and going to work, that I did when I used to drink lotsobooze to quell those dreads.

And, it’s not something I feel like I’m getting bored with, yet. Maybe there are dark shadows flitting about the mirrors that I’m disregarding (pause for Stephen King-ish italicised chuckle). I don’t mean periodic nostalgia for the sting of a decent malt whisky, or the contemplative pleasures of an afternoon pint in a quiet bar. The glinting golden glow softening the edges.

Those are quite enjoyable phantasms, really, partly because as moments they depart quite readily anyway, and mostly because I recognise them for what they are: flowers with serpents underneath, a first beguiling glimpse into a somewhat hazy and increasingly threatening upside down, in which the encroaching darkening evening would inevitably lead through more measures into messiness, clouded mornings of self-recrimination, and so on and on, rinse and repeat, miserably scratching off lines on breezeblocks.

There they are; regard was had for the dark shadows. Cooee! (shadowy tendril waves back as it slurps in reverse into the mirror)

Having regard, I would say, at this stage of my process, works for me. It’s an acknowledgment? Not of something missing but of something positive revealed.

So, yes, still keeping a tally, but not to the extent that that becomes another thing to carry about, a self-imposed sentence, a punishing regime. This is not Sparta.

1st October 2019 appears to be a time earmarked for considering habits of consumption.

Media consumption… In an interesting series of tweets, unrolled here, Venkatesh Rao suggests leaning into, rather than withdrawing from it. I found it quite an instructive read. I would not go so far as to say I have been waldenponding, but I’ve not been leaning into it. If our contact with the Global Social Computer In the Cloud (and Rao is right; there might be a snappier term for it) lends us oracular agency, I am at present mainly a scanner darkly muttering about it all being a bit complicated. Concentrate and ask again later.

However, having enjoyed an extended period of sequesterment, it feels right to announce a farewell to digital hermitry. Perspective shift. There is plenty to share, perhaps dependent on handling a complex system of holding patterns correctly, but shared it should be, not stacked.

Today it’s just sincere good luck wishes to all people starting Stoptober, or Ocsober, or SoberOctober, or whatever your chosen variant name for NOT BOOZING til November might be.

It may seem you are in some sort of defensive retreat from something, but you are in fact going for enthusiastic gonzo immersion in something else (to paraphrase Rao, again)…  and you will feel better for it if you stick with it.

I’ve been holding off on posting anything alcohol-related, waiting for something worth saying about it, and here it is: 184 days.

The story of stopping began earlier this year (check out the Booze tag). Lots of those first posts were foundation stones; some laid carefully, placed with precision, some just tipped out and left where they landed. There’s a bit of biography, a fair bit of working through ideas about process and motivation. I spent a month or so writing my way out of something and into something. Finding myself inhabiting a different kind of mindset, kind of one I always had in mind but maybe didn’t feel set on, was where a need to write about it all so much fell away.

Perhaps my motivations altered.

“…distressing memories succumb especially easily to motivated forgetting”

– Freud

There have been a lot of associations with drinking bubbling up. I have been intending to document them (a richly-stocked draft folder attests)… but it all felt a bit too personal. As the above quotation suggests, it’s quite easy to ignore “that stuff”, seal closed a door and move on. That stuff beyond the symptoms (a constant sense of inability; feeling bloated in a vast, round number of ways; impoverishment (same); self-negation…)

While I have got on pretty well with being a sober person – lots of exercise, and diary, and making music, and reading a lot, and leaving my old job, and all that stuff – what all that clear-eyed thinkery reveals also is that, even with the dampers off, one’s head still works in certain ways, and that one of the reasons for applying the dampers is because those ways of working can be pretty fucking annoying.

Stopping seemed easy because I was ready to do so. Talking about the things that had me doing it in the first place… the walled-in rooms, the crumbled ruins discovered beneath the lake, are where the interesting stories are, of course.

Today, though! Strike up the anniversary waltz. It’s officially just over six months since I stopped drinking alcoholic drinks. Halfway to my target of a year off drinking, feeling good about it, break out the cake.

“Anniversaries”, though. As discussed in one of those early pieces, how to signify short-term dates of significance is unclear. Checking back through the booze tag from earlier in the year, I think a week was pebbles. Rocks tend to appear later in the anniversary stakes. Six months being a semiannual return, it’s better than pebbles. Something concrete, perhaps?

L.O. To identify and analyse the components of sonnets

Year 7! Stop this racket! Settle down!
That you’ve arrived late from PE is bad
enough without …you acting like a clown,
Grimaldi. Quiet while I’m speaking, lad.
The objective this lesson is up – DAN!
You need to get your backside on your chair
and planner on your desk, now, please, young man.
The objective, you may have seen, is there…
on the board, Lewis; it’s on the board,
if you were paying attention you’d have seen
it, instead of wasting time we can’t afford
throwing a basketball around with Jean.
Yes, you can pick it up at four pm
from welfare, where I’m sure there’ll be a chat
about why it has ended up with them.
I’m only glad it’s not a cricket bat.
Chewing gum in the bin, Jean, thank – good shot!
Now, can I start this lesson off, or what?

 

Soundtrack for reading (sorry the embed went wrong, will attempt to fix it) :

Blue Drag – The Hot Club Quintet

This week I have been occupied by being back to skool, back to work. It is about equal parts exam countdown (upper years), easy-peel units on poetry (lower school) and mordant commentary with colleagues about where work might be next year. Motivation is sketchy. Sometimes little moments can be a reminder of why teaching is such a lot of fun, but a great deal of it is just the same stupid job territory as every other stupid job.

Depends on how sunny it is, mostly. Maintaining a positive demeanour in the teeth of the things with teeth.

There are multiple projects having nothing to do with earning money with which I would be far happier to engage. However, on a day-to-day basis, they are all just partially-recalled dreams, forgotten in the waking to maintain the project of watching numbers apparently related to my worth appearing and disappearing from my bank account at the same time every month.

Some Gormenghastly ceremony, the meaning of which is long since lost, that participants go through with little enthusiasm.

That’s the teeth. Ach, it’s not all lugubrious pondering and late capitalist mope! Pretty sure I shouldn’t be keeping myself up late writing… Sweeping out the mind before turning in is a highly valuable process, though.

I’ll put the chin-stroking down to a definite post-holiday blue drag. Last week it was all frolicking in familiar precincts. I remembered there was a typewriter somewhere in the house and got that out. The four year old (just picking up on an interest in written letters and numbers) now asking if they can ‘get on with some paperwork’…

lore preschoolsum

I love the faint suggestion of millennial significance, that this is a cipher holding arcane truths about the underpinnings of things.

I also love that it means “today i helped put a tent up in the garden and then did some important paperwork on the typewriter’. Or something different but also fabulous, depending on how the light hits the runes.

Infinite monkeying about! There’s a career goal. Keeping that in mind should see the rest of it fall into place.

Friday night and clearing off a few of the tabs, thought I’d follow Austin Kleon’s plan for sharing a few items.

Lizzo – Juice!

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Just as we have found means of generating useful energy that are better and less damaging than coal, so we need to find means of generating human wellbeing that are better and less damaging than capitalism.

George Monbiot drops the adjectives associated with capitalism, identifying it as the dead and overpriced racist milkshake duck it is.

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Epic Beard Men – Pistol Dave

Elegaic masculinity! Kind of goes with Slots by Dan Panosian, which I just read in the trade collection, from Knaresborough Library.

 

 

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Whatever happens with Leeds United football club this season – ups, and downs, expected – Elland Road, nay, Yorkshire, has become a better place for the presence of Marcelo Bielsa.

Can I ask how you lift yourself, Marcelo? Do you take yourself away from this intense feeling for a while and do something different to lift your spirits?

I think when you receive a blow, to ignore the consequences is not the right path. Pain has a natural process for disappearing and if you want to force this process or hide it, it is meaningless.

 

Not your average football manager!

 

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Austin Kleon, portable routines and “sharing something small every day” (what prompted this).

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Doing a lot of rethinking on the record collection, having read through a New Yorker article on Ralph Ellison, a man and his records (…can’t take it with you man…)

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You can take this with you… the wonderful Ali Spagnola, the song that doesn’t end (works best on phones)

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Just found out it’s “A to Z Blogging Challenge” month.

Totally evaded me. Ah well, can’t be helped!

This (Beyond the Screams, a documentary about the U.S. Latino punk scene and the DIY movement) has been helping me get into changing it up mode: